Sunday, August 26, 2018

Diu the Pearl of India

Diu the Pearl of India

Diu the Pearl of India, presenting mixture of Portuguese and Gujarati culture together, is one of the 100 ideal heritage sites of India. The island is surrounded on the three sides by blue water of Arabian Sea. It was a sea port trade centre and vital trade link with the rest of India for traders overseas and was an important naval base of strategic importance on Saurastra coast for centuries and was ruled by Mauryas, Chalukyas, Chavda-Vaghela, Turks and Portuguese. Portuguese carried with them the Siddis from the African colonies and built the fort, the city wall and other strictures in the Cantonment. Portuguese stayed and ruled over the island for 450 years, till it was annexed to India on December 19, 1961.

Diu fort with many cannons spread around tells stories and history of the bravery and great wars they fought with the enemies. All the cannons are positioned towards Gujarat, as it was always under the danger of attacks from the Sultanate of Gujarat. Turks from Ottoman Empire were spreading rapidly towards East Asia and with it’s naval support to the local Muslim rulers, the island came under the great threat. 

Bahadur Shah the Sultan of Gujarat tried to seize Diu from Portuguese with the help of Ottoman Empire of Pasha during the 4 years war of 1531-34. 1534-35 AD were important years for Sultan Bahadur Shah because he won Diu in the west and Chitorgarh in the north. But at Mandsore, his head of artillery Rumi Khan (Russian Turk) betrayed him in favour of Humayun. Bahadur Shah then fled to Mandu but Mandu fortress was taken by Humayun, therefore, he fled to Champaner and finally took refuge in Diu. With the revolt of Sher Shah Suri in Bihar and Jaunpur, Humayun returned to Agra leaving his brother and two generals to command Ahmedabad, Bharuch and Patan, Bahadur Shah with the help of his old nobles, defeated Mughals at Kanij (near Mahemadabad) and expelled them. He then tried to recover Mandu from Mughal but was forced to the court of Portuguese, signed treaty of Bassein with Portuguese on December 23, 1534, gave them rights over Bassein (Vasai), Daman and Bombay and granted permission to erect a factory in Diu, instead the Portuguese Governor D Nuno da Cunha constructed the Diu fort. 

Portuguese had lost many lives and wealth during those four years (1531-34) war against the armies of Ottoman empire and Gujarat Sultanate, didn’t forget the losses. Therefore, when the Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah came to Diu, invited the Viceroy with a strategy to pull him into his power, the Viceroy excused himself and in return invited the Sultan to his ship anchored off the coast of Gujarat. Bahadur Shah committed a mistake, went to the Viceroy’s ship, failed in negotiation terms and on his way back was attacked and killed in encounter by the Portuguese and his body was dumped into the water of Arabian Sea. The ship anchors away from the coast beyond the Panikotha structure, and one has to travel in a small boat to approach the ship and return to the jetty. The powerful Sultan, otherwise could had defeated the Portuguese in direct war, traveled in a small boat and lost his life in the water of Arabian sea in a small encounter of few minutes. He was only 30 years old. Why did he took such a risky move?

When British took over the reins of India in their hands, there was nothing advantageous either politically or for trades for the Portuguese to stay   as the fort population was mostly dependent on imports of goods and services from the African countries of South Africa, Mozambique, etc. But to showcase the presence of their colonial rule some 5000 km away, they continued their hold over the land. They believed in keeping the local population happy to save the kingdom. They lived as they believed. As a Community, Portuguese are very nice and sociable people. Unlike British, Portuguese males married with the locals females and gave birth to the coloured population in their colonial areas. Pao (soft bread) and barbecue fish is their staple food but they also enjoy chicken with gravy. They are famous for their bakery products. 

Diu became independent and annexed to India on 19 December 1961. People celebrate the Independence Day with one week long Diu Festival (Festa De Diu) in December every year. Before 1961, their Passports were stamped at Indian check post when they were coming to Indian territory for the medical treatment or other purposes. 

Diu, Daman Dadara Nagar Haveli and Goa (Estado da India) were annexed by armed action ‘Operation Vijay’ in December 1961 and were put under military administration till replaced by civilian rule in June 1962. It is interesting to note that the the issue of Indian armed action was taken up for a debate in the UN Security Council in December 1961 with the Portuguese request. The request was approved when the bare minimum of seven members supported the request (the US, UK, France, Turkey, Chile, Ecuador, and Nationalist China), two opposed (the Soviet Union and Ceylon), and two abstained (the United Arab Republic and Liberia).

When Diu and Goa were under attack from the land, sky and sea for 36 hours, the Portuguese people living in the fort went to the City area for rescue, then surrendered and left the land by a ship. And loving people they were, considered the Indian population of the island as their own people because of their long association with them for 451 years, invited them to the ship and took away to those who joined them to Portugal. They extended the citizenship right of Portugal to all the natives. Many carrying Portugal Passport moved to Europe and mostly settled in the Wembly of London. 

Those born before 1961 and their children do carry citizenship rights of Portugal even today. There are agents who process the file by charging ₹ 2 lakh/case for the fees and costs, and every year some youngsters surrender their Indian citizenship, acquire Portuguese Passport and try their luck in Europe, mostly in London. Many youths had migrated living their old aged parents behind, one can see many houses empty in Fudam and other villages. If you wish to buy a property in Diu, you may buy in Nagarsheth Heritage, but can’t buy in Fudam without the permission of the local Panchayat Society! Merchant Navy job carries the highest value above doctors and engineers amongst the families living in Ghoghala area of fishermen community. 

Some people remember the old days of Portuguese rule in which they were living with ease and comforts, enjoying fruits and vegetables of Africa. Wearing Gold ornaments and decorating houses were the luxuries of the life the women of Diu they had enjoyed the most. 

One of the Collectors of Diu found out his better half from Diu, married to a beautiful Portuguese girl serving in the Collectorate, whose parents and other relatives are settled in England, leaving a small house at Diu. 

There are many places and buildings of historical and archeological importance in Diu, but some of them are noteworthy: the fort, Panikotha, the city wall, a heritage walk from the beach side to other side of the town (small steps feel like great China wall walk), beautiful beaches: Chakratirtha, Nagoa, Ghoghala, Jalandhar; Naida caves, INS Khukri Memorial, Gangeshwar temple, etc. 

The beautiful St. Paul Church is the biggest building adorned with curiously treated volutes and shell like motifs and the magnificent wood carving is considered to be the most elaborate of all the Portuguese Churches in India. They worship Mother Mary, and the eyes of Mother Mary idol in the Church is very famous for it’s beauty and shine. Now the building is in the custody of Archeology Department, open for prayer but not been maintained so well. 

India won the war with the surrender of 93000 Pakistani soldiers under Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi before Indian Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Arora at Ramna Race Course Garden in Dhaka, Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, but a week before at 19.57 hrs on December 9, 1971, the great sons of India sacrificed their lives to protect the pride of the mother land. Indian Navy’s frigate INS Khukri F149 fell prey to three torpedoes fires on her by a Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor on December 9, 1971 in the course of the war. INS Khukri F149 sank 40 nautical miles off the Diu coast taking down with her a crew of 18 Officers and 176 Soldiers. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, a Kashmiri Pandit, was the Commanding Officer of the Ship. It is said that he refused to abandon the Captain’s seat and opted to go down with the sinking ship. He is considered as a hero in naval history and was awarded country’s second highest gallantry award ‘Mahavir Chakra’ (posthumously). A war memorial near Diu, displays name of the brave martyrs soldiers who lost their lives in INS Khukri F149.

The only place to see Hokka Trees in India is Diu. This sole Indian species of African genus was carried on the island by the the Portuguese from Africa. Hokka trees and Siddi workers of Africa are the Gifts of Portuguese to Gujarat and India. The fruits of the tree are edible, tastes like dates and have medicinal properties. These are heritage trees and therefore, there is prohibition to cut Hokka tree in Diu, the fine is heavy. 

A small population of Diu speak Portuguese. You may hear the words: como esta (how are you), obrigado (fine thank you), while walking in the streets of Diu. A Portuguese gentleman (Mother Indian father Portuguese), when asked for Portuguese life and meal in Diu, he happily invited us for dinner. We may take a chance to it in our next trip to the pearl of India, Diu. 

26 August 2018

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